Just when you thought that all invective and empty criticism about Israel had been exhausted, you get treated to the most unexpectedly silly kind of Israel-bashing (published in the most unexpected of places). In a piece published here at the Times, a certain American Jewish woman wants the world to know that her Israel is a land of “spoiled milk and honey.”
“Why?” you ask. The reasons are fuzzy. It seems that Israel has not lived up to the latent fantasies of her sixteen-year-old former self that have something to do with water pipes and lascivious soldiers. The writer tells us she left the cradle of civilization — Los Angeles — to return to Israel, motivated in part by the her pining for the “smell of cologne and falafel wafting through the Tel Aviv night.”
A low threshold for fulfillment, yet still, it seems, she’s gone unfulfilled. Back at home, in LA, when she’d buy matzoh at the supermarket during the chagim, the apparently Jewish store clerk would give “that subtle nod” and wish her chag sameach, no doubt in a caballish whisper, with “that secret insider smile” on her face.
It is true that one cannot enjoy the “subtle” pleasures of crypto-Jewry in the land of the Jews. One, alas, has to be unsubtle about chagim nods and speak in fuller tones — prouder tones? — when wishing citizens of Israel chag sameach. It’s the price we pay.
And no, in Israel you’re not special just because you’re Jewish. You’re a Jew among the Jews — among the Jewish “whores, thieves, and mobsters,” as the writer says. It is true. But there are also the Jewish children who would do well by a well educated American Jewish tutor; the Jewish elderly waiting for a conversation with an interesting young woman from another place; and the hungry Jewish poor who wouldn’t object to being served supper by American Jewish hands.
Yes, Israel is imperfect. No, you won’t be praised and gushed over just because you decided to live the life that Israelis have no choice but to live. However, the thing that too often goes unnoticed by American immigrants to Israel who, unlike most other immigrant groups, have the luxury of returning to the Diaspora, is that you can actually change the Israel in which you live. But you have to try.
The author of the piece admits at the end that the problem is, indeed, with herself: she was never in love with Israel, she says, but in love with American Judaism. So in the end, it isn’t the proverbial milk-and-honey of the Land that’s spoiled, now is it?